Richmond Librarian Honored for Advocacy Work

Ida McGhee continues to expand library access for people of color through Cornucopia of Rhode Island

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For more than 45 years, Richmond resident and librarian Ida McGhee has dedicated her career to increasing access to information services for people of color.

To honor her efforts, she was recently awarded the 2021 Library Advocacy Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). The award was given to McGhee and seven others at the National Conference of African American Librarians virtual Awards and Honors Ceremony.

“I would like to have an impact on the library profession to mentor and recruit students, especially students of color, to the profession,” says McGhee, who has worked to expand professional opportunities for people of color in the field of library studies.

In 2020, the Rhode Island Library Conference similarly recognized McGhee with the Library Champion Award for her outstanding work in building a platform for librarians of color within our state.

For 28 years, McGhee was a librarian with the Hartford Public Library, managing their Library on Wheels, running her own library-sponsored book club, and serving on the Permanent Commission on the Status of Hartford Women. She became involved with BCALA, serving as the chapter’s co-vice chair while also participating as a member of REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

Retirement far from slowed McGhee down when she moved to Rhode Island in 2004. She sought out a local organization focused on advancing the field of library studies among people of color. Unable to find one, she gathered a group of her peers and formed Cornucopia of Rhode Island: A Library Community of Color (CORI).

Founded in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, the group promotes library services to people of color within Rhode Island and the development of librarians and library staff of color through the exchange of ideas, mentorship opportunities, and community outreach.

Though she retired from her public library job in Hartford, she has worked as a librarian at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) since 2011 and has served as an adjunct professor at the Warwick, Providence, and Lincoln campuses.

She says proudly of her work at the college, “I encourage all CCRI students, staff, and faculty to use our libraries. We are here for you.”

There’s no doubt that McGhee’s efforts over the past decades have opened doors for many. “I hope future librarians will represent the people they serve and that students will grow up in a community, attend college, and see faces similar to themselves that work in their libraries,” says McGhee. To learn more about CORI, visit CornucopiaOfRI.blogspot.com.

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